This 77-Story Residential Tower ups the Ante on the LES Waterfront; Locals Are Pissed

Posted on: April 28th, 2016 at 5:00 am by
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Extell is no longer the only game down on the Lower East Side waterfront. And, as usual, it’s at the expense of a low-income community.

Last night was the rollout, and it certainly stirred up the hornet’s nest.

First, some context.

The parcel behind the former Pathmark Pharmacy will sprout a 77-story residential building courtesy of SHoP Architects and JDS Development Group. If you’re keeping track, that’s thirty stories taller than the original plans. The proposed phallus sits just a few yards from Extell’s gargantuan One Manhattan Square currently under construction, with the address of 247 Cherry Street.

JDS and SHoP agreed to purchase a package of 500,000 square-feet of development rights for an estimated $51 million. A windfall in no uncertain terms for Two Bridges Neighborhood Council (Victor Papa) and Settlement Housing (Alexa Sewell), and pitched as a necessity for the nonprofits to stay alive while providing waterfront resiliency and amenities. The plan is to demolish the small community center and construct a 900-foot cantilevering beast over the top of the existing senior housing building. It’ll be composed of 600 rentals, approximately 150 of which earmarked as “permanently affordable” (25% of the total). JDS also committed to creating a 4,600 square-foot community facility within 247 Cherry.

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Little Cherry Development, LLC previously laid claim to part of the land, having agreed to purchase the parcel, known as 235-247 Cherry, from Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Settlement Housing Fund for $4 million. The organizations balked, and Schoenberg leveled a $50 million lawsuit for breach of contract. That lawsuit is making its way toward settlement spring. It’s conceivable that the developers will cover the settlement monies. Once leases expire on the former pharmacy box – Extell holds half the space until 2044, and Schoenberg has the other half – the plan is to build more retail at the base.

As for the presentation last night, the atmosphere was contentious. Newly minted Assemblywoman Alice Cancel and reps from local electeds all bore witness. Simply put, there is no trust between TBNC and tenants in their buildings. After a brief presentation by the developers, Sewell fielded questions from a battle-hardened crew sick of constant construction at their doorstep. Tenants didn’t understand how this 77-story monstrosity could benefit the overall community, as its mere presence is a destructive force. No one in the room wanted this area to become “another Battery Park,” in reference to the antiseptic makeover crosstown.

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Management maintained their position and noted that the deal is great because:

  1. Affordable housing additions.
  2. Capital improvements for the senior building.
  3. “Capitalize” (i.e. line the pockets) the Two Bridges and Settlement Housing.

Most vocal was 82 Rutgers tenant association leader Trever Holland who immediately went for the jugular. He accused management of not hosting a tenant meeting in years and that transparency is nonexistent. Also that there is little in the plans to benefit the Two Bridges Tower – despite sale of their air rights – other than shaky promises that “there will be no impact whatsoever” to future tenancy in the affordable building. He further asserted that the seniors next door probably have no clue what’s happening, “and won’t know until [the building] is up.” Holland’s most pointed jab, however, was the insinuation that there is something fishy happening here a la Rivington House. (The developers will pay for any infrastructural updates. All profits go toward TBNC and SHF.)

In the end, it seems as though a significant number of residents feel sold out by the $51 million deal, flooding the area with market raters and further changing the neighborhood dynamic. That much was made clear. To that end, any time Papa opened his mouth, residents shouted him down for being a liar and accused him of taking kickbacks from the deal.

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Victor Papa and Alexa Sewell

For its part, the developers remain committed to transparency and open communication with the community. Though, it still doesn’t change the fact that quality of life will be in the toilet for the next decade.

It’s also believed – though not confirmed – that Two Bridges Neighborhood Council staff may have suffered as a result of these plans. As mentioned earlier this week, associate director Kerri Culhane, second in charge to Victor Papa, was reportedly one of several to resign before the project was made public.

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